All the insurance world is a stage. The Insider considers preparing for the spotlight with a cut-price tummy tuck

Regular readers will know that Towergate abandoned its usual party in Portugal for a recession-style shindig in the rather less glamorous location of Maidstone, Kent this year. It’s all about belt-tightening, keeping your chin up and putting your best foot forward, don’t you know.

So imagine the hapless delegates’ surprise when the conference opened with a video message from none other than chairman Peter Cullum and chief executive Andy Homer. It hardly bears thinking about, but the chaps were apparently relaxing in a hot tub together in – you’ve got it – Portugal. The aghast audience went from shock to horror and then fury – until they realised Homer and Cullum were actually in their midst and it was just the irrepressible pair’s idea of a joke.

The industry luvvies take centre stage

And so to the Dorchester, for the annual RADA lunch, a prelude to the Christmas party season, which for some reason seems to play host to more insurance ‘celebrities’ than real ones. This year, spotted among the great and good were Towergate’s Peter Cullum, Andy Homer and Amanda Blanc, Willis’s Brendan McManus, Bluefin’s Stuart Reid, Fortis’s Barry Smith and Equity’s Neil Utley.

Eastenders’ Phil McFadden, national treasure June Whitfield and that couple from the Nescafé ads were queuing up, presumably clamouring for autographs. They were sorely disappointed, though, because our insurance ’slebs were too busy outbidding each other in the silent auction (Cullum was devastated not to walk away with his annual debenture ticket for Wimbledon) and recalling glorious holidays past (you’d never believe what went on in Sting and Trudi’s villa …).

Plastic fantastic

The quest for eternal youth doesn’t come cheap. But one dodgy clinic thought that it had come up with a foolproof plan for boosting sales by flogging cut-price cosmetic surgery and hoodwinking insurer AXA PPP into meeting the costs. Dr Simon Peck, AXA’s head of provider audit and information, says the clinic claimed for numerous hernia operations. But suspicions were roused by one thing. All the claims were for women, all of the same age and with the exact same medical history. The insurer discovered that it was in fact paying for tummy tucks – most definitely not covered by the policy.

Contenders, ready?

The biggest guessing game in the industry is currently on. Who will Mark Hodges appoint as his boss of general insurance? The grapevine favourite was originally sales director Janice Deakin, a well-established figure in the firm, who apparently has her hat firmly in the ring. But another name that reaches my ears is chief operating officer David McMillan. Of course, Hodges could also throw a bit of curve ball and bringing in someone from the outside. All I can say is watch this space …

One for the christmas card list

Now let’s play a game of who’s the most powerful man in UK general insurance. Mark Hodges? Peter Cullum? The private equity men stood in the shadows? No, no, and no. Since the Lloyds takeover of HBOS, Lloyds TSB corporate markets Bill Cooper has been bankrolling Giles, as well Towergate and a fair few others. I expect he’ll be getting a few nice presents this Christmas.

London, Croydon, the world

Talking of Christmas, if any of you are looking to keep your weight in check during the indulgent season, maybe Barbon chief executive Martin Oliver can inspire you. He has pledged to cycle to each of the company’s seven offices, as part of the firm’s ‘bike to work’ scheme. Okay, he reserves the right to get the train for some of the way if the office is a bit far flung, but that’s not a bad effort. So far the eco-friendly boss has done the St Mary’s Axe office in London, Chelmsford and Croydon. Only Bournemouth, Lincoln and Glasgow left to go then – don’t forget to do your stretches, Martin. IT